Pilpay's Fables

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Burton, Richard Francis
Cox, Thomas E
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Burton published his Pilpay in 1847, as the special strip added over the dust-jacket here proclaims. This is the first Burton edition in over one hundred years. This volume includes copious footnotes from Burton himself, especially linguistic and anthropological. The notes often draw upon contrasts between Muslims and Hindus. The introduction on Burton himself paints a lively picture of a man who could learn languages with amazing speed and accuracy. He also immersed himself successfully into foreign cultures and learned their mores, including sexual mores. He seems to have been a master of disguise. The heavy paper helps to account for the fact that this book is only 74 pages long. The title of the original work is Akhlak-i-Hindi or a Translation of the Hindustani Version of Pilpay's Fables. There are eight fables here. I will do my best to trace the way through. (1) In the frame story, pigeons are tempted to descend into a trap for rice. (2) Suspecting a trap, one pigeon tells the tale of an old tiger. This tiger offers a gold bracelet gratis to passers-by, but first they need to wash in what turns out to be quicksandish mud; the tiger simply eats them up once they are stuck. The pigeons fly with the net toward an old mouse friend. Crow wants to become friends with mouse even though they are natural enemies. (3) Mouse, not yet trusting, tells crow the story of the crow, deer, and jackal. Deer brings jackal, a supposed friend, to meet crow, a good friend. Crow suspects the jackal. (4) Crow tells the deer the story of the vulture and cat. The cat talks the vulture into sparing her; then the cat devours the young birds that attracted the vulture--and moves on. The little birds' parents return and kill the vulture. Jackal proves to be evil. Crow helps rescue trusting deer, who plays dead. A peasant who thought he had caught the deer throws a club at the fleeing deer, but it hits the evil jackal instead. Mouse and crow pick up and go to join the tortoise, crow's old friend. Mouse tells the story of his conversion after living off of a begging monk. (5) A visiting monk tells the begging monk that the mouse preying upon him has a reason for being able to leap so well. To explain, he tells the story of an old Banyan who has an unfaithful young wife. When she is almost caught, she covers her lover's escape with repeated kisses of her old husband. Things are done for the doer's interest. Together the two monks found the mouse's hoard and reduced him to a pauper. (6) The tortoise claims that a beggar is happier than a rich miser and tells the story of a jackal. A sportsman, a deer, and a hog are all dead. The gnawed string of the bow ends up killing the greedy jackal. Then the deer joins the group. (7) If they have to travel, they should not let the tortoise go by land, the mouse says. They will regret it the way a Banyan came to regret his own work. He then follows with the story of a man who fell desperately in love. His fostermother tempts the woman, married to a Banyan shopkeeper, to love her fosterson who pines for her as she does for him. I will arrange it soon that her husband brings her to you, the fostermother says to the desperate man. (8) Contrivance is everything, she claims, as is shown by the story of the elephant devoured by the jackals. One jackal leads the elephant into quicksand and fetches fellow jackals to devour him. She gets the man to hire the woman's husband and to relate to him his dream of robing women in rich clothes. After two women, the Banyan husband brings his own wife, but of course this lover treats her differently from the first two women…. The frame story ends: the turtle is captured by a hunter; the deer fakes being lame and lures the hunter slowly after her. The mouse frees the netted turtle. These are very talkative animals; their rhetoric is fulsome. This work loves lists, e.g., the six things which become a man (24). The illustrations are good. Among the best are those showing the crow observing the mouse and the birds (29) and the cat devouring young birds near a sleeping vulture (39). The book, alas, contains a number of typos: extracate (20); your value your weal (21); then for than (34); mans (36). Might they come from Burton or his publisher rather than from Orchid?
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